Retail inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), accelerated to 5.76 per cent in May, driven primarily by rising food prices, making it more unlikely for the central bank to cut rates in the near future.
According to a Reuters report: After leaving rates unchanged last week, Governor Raghuram Rajan said the Reserve Bank of India, which has targeted inflation at 5 per cent by March 2017, was looking for room to reduce interest rates, but there were concerns over upward pressure on food and commodity prices.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected annual consumer prices, which the RBI closely tracks to set its interest rate policy, to be up by 5.52 per cent in May, compared with an upwardly revised 5.47 per cent in April.
Food inflation picked up to 7.55 per cent in May from an upwardly revised 6.40 per cent in the previous month, as prices of vegetables, sugar and pulses rose between 11 per cent and 32 per cent from a year earlier.
The report added that the retail inflation has more than halved since November 2013, on the back of crash in global commodity prices as well as subdued rural demand. It had hit 7.03 per cent in August 2014.
As per Reuters, analysts fear an increase in the cost of petrol and diesel by more than 5 percent since May 1, and in prices of foods such as sugar and milk in the last month, could further heat up prices.
“While there are some seasonal factors at play, structural mismatches are also evident in the rise in protein inflation,” Economist at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership, A. Prasanna, was quoted as saying.
“We stick to our call of no more rate cuts in this financial year,” he added.
The government has also hiked taxes by 0.5 percentage point on services such as telecoms, travel and eating out from June 1.
The data comes on the heels of a 0.8 per cent contraction in industrial production in April.
Asia’s third largest economy grew 7.9 per cent in the quarter to March, outpacing China’s 6.7 per cent growth, and is projected to expand by around 7.75 per cent in the current fiscal year that started on April 1.
New Delhi expects good rainfall between June and September, after two years of drought, to boost growth and tame prices of food items that account for nearly half of the consumer price index.
The monsoon, which delivers 70 percent of annual rainfall, is critical for India’s 263 million farmers and crops such as rice, cane, corn and cotton because nearly half of farmland lacks irrigation.